Plant propagation is the process of producing more plants from a single plant, is a very popular practice amongst many gardeners.
Many plants self-propagate by seed, and some through runners or clumping, but there are also artificial propagation methods such as growing from cuttings, where a tip section of a branch is taken, prepared in a certain way, and planted in a specialised mix so it sprouts roots, forming a new plant.
Usually there are two main times when cuttings are taken, depending on whether plants are evergreen, and always have leaves, or deciduous, and lose their leaves in winter.
- Propagation from hardwood cuttings is done in late winter, with deciduous plants, when they are dormant and have no leaves.
- Propagation from softwood cuttings is done in early spring or later, with evergreen plants, when they are actively growing and have leaves.
Some plants are easier to strike (root) from cuttings than others, and the more difficult plants may require the use of additional treatments which help stimulate root growth, such as:
- Rooting hormone, which is applied to the cut end at the bottom where roots will grow
- Bottom heat, usually in the form of an electric propagation heat mat, which warms the propagating medium that the cuttings are planted in, from underneath.
Plants grown from cuttings are genetic clones, they are identical to the parent plant in every way, so propagation from cuttings (as well as grafting and layering) is used to preserve the desirable traits in a plant, when producing more of plants from it. Many plants are not true to seed, and vary genetically when seed-grown.
What Do Plant Cuttings Need to Root?
All forms of plant propagation, including growing from cuttings, depend on three critical factors to produce new plants:
Plant cuttings require a warm, moist, oxygen-rich environment to grow roots. Plants need warmth to grow, they need moisture so they don’t dry out, and they need oxygen to support their life processes. There are very few plants that can grow with their roots in anaerobic (low oxygen) soil environments, and these are mainly aquatic plants that can grow in mud.
It’s possible to create an artificial environment that provides the optimum amount of moisture, oxygen and warmth for plants cuttings to grow roots most efficiently, using the system of aeroponics, which literally means ‘growing in air’. True aeroponic systems use a mist of nutrient-rich water sprayed over the plant roots inside a dark growing chamber.
An aeroponic propagation system works similarly, it uses a mist or spray of highly oxygenated warm water to stimulate root growth of plant cuttings, but also uses a humidity cover to maintain moisture around the leaves of cuttings, as they don’t have any roots to take up more water when it’s lost from their leaves.
Reviewing the Seahawk Clone Station 24 Aeroponic Cloner
Advanced cloning methods allow gardeners to propagate plants more quickly, and also propagate plants that are usually quite difficult to produce. I’ve been propagating plants for many years, and are always looking to try better ways of producing plants from cuttings.
When eBay Australia asked me to select some home and garden products to review, I chose the Seahawk Clone Station 24 Aeroponic Cloner from their Hydroponics – Hydroponic Systems, Parts & Accessories – Hydroponic Systems category.
The Seahawk Clone Station 24 Aeroponic Cloner is a compact, aeroponic propagator which can take up to 24 cuttings at a time, and uses a clear, soft humidity dome which can fold away when not in use. It includes a pump, six colours of reusable neoprene disks for identifying different plant varieties, a spare set of 5 misting jets, and assembly instructions.
This system works by misting water to the cuttings root zone, and allowing a high amount of oxygen to flow around the root zone, which produces faster root development than conventional propagation methods, and an improves the success rate of rooting cuttings.
Automated cloning made easy, in as little as 7 days tiny root bumps will begin forming on the cuttings. In 10-14 days roots are formed and growing rapidly. At around 14-21 day mark the newly rooted plants are ready to transplant, and can be put into hydroponic systems, aeroponic growing system, pots filled with potting mix, or into the garden.
Unboxing the Seahawk Clone Station 24 Aeroponic Cloner
The Seahawk Clone Station 24 Aeroponic Cloner comes in a tidy-looking printed blue box, with dimensions 42cm x 30cm x19cm (LxWxH).
The side of the box shows a graphic of what the assembled product looks like.
The box is double-stapled along the sides to keep it rigid, which prevents it getting crushed in transit, protecting the contents inside. The package I received was delivered in pristine condition.
There’s a contents list printed on the short side of the box, which is handy for checking that everything is is the box when unpacking the contents, which require assembly.
What’s in the box?
The package includes:
- 1 flexible humidity dome
- 1 base tub
- 1 tub lid
- 1 water pump
- 1 spray manifold
- 25 coloured neoprene disks
- 5 mister jets (spare)
- 2 support brackets
- 4 Velcro tabs
- 1 instruction sheet
The contents are neatly packed in the box, and all the smaller parts are enclosed in their own separate plastic bags or cardboard boxes.
The humidity dome is dismantled and folded flat to fit into the box.
A single-page, double-sided instruction sheet is included, which explains how to assemble the product.
I’ve provided images which can be clicked to expand, providing readable copies of the instructions below.
Page one of the assembly instructions (click on image to enlarge):
Page two of the assembly instructions (click on image to enlarge):
Unpacking the contents, there’s a water pump, and to the right, the folded flexible humidity dome.
In the second row is a bag containing the neoprene disks (in rainbow colours), another small bag with Velcro tabs, and the spray manifold with 5 red spray jets preinstalled.
At the very bottom are the two long support brackets which are used to prop up the flexible humidity dome.
The base tub which holds the water, and tub lid which holds the cuttings, are pictured below.
These two parts are made of different plastics, as far as I can determine, the base tub is made of polypropylene (PP), while the tub lid is made of ABS plastic. Both plastic mouldings are clean, sturdy and well-made.
The submersible water pump comes in its own box, with a set of instructions, a spare filter, and two outlet adapters which would be used to connect it to fountains, but aren’t needed with this product.
The neoprene disks hold the cuttings in place in the aeroponic cloner, and there are six different colours supplied – red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet, which also happen to be the colours of the rainbow. There are four disks of each colour, and one spare orange disk was supplied. The unit can hold 24 cuttings at a time, and 25 disks are supplied.
The five spare mister jets come in a small zip-lock bag, and these are presumably to replace the ones installed on the spray manifold if they ever clog up and stop working.
Assembling the Seahawk Clone Station 24 Aeroponic Cloner
It’s fairly easy to assemble the Seahawk Clone Station 24 Aeroponic Cloner, and it should take under twenty minutes to put the unit together. The assembly instructions are fairly well written, with clear and easy to follow diagrams, eliminating a lot of guesswork.
To show what’s actually involved in the assembly, I’ve written the following step-by-step instructions, and included photos, which I’ve included below:
Step 1 – Following the instruction sheet for assembly, fit the spray manifold fits into the outlet hole at the top of the pump.
Spray manifold fitted to water pump.
Step 2 – Sit water pump into base tub, aligning side of pump without power cord inside the half-rectangle marking at the centre of the bottom of the tub.
Step 3 – Align water pump power cord so it sits in the shallow groove on the side of the base tub. The water pump has suction cups underneath which will hold it in place, grip the sides of the water pump (not the spray manifold) and gently press down for the suction cups to grip.
Step 4 – Fit the tub lid to the tub base, aligning the power cord notch in the lid with the one in the base.
When the power cord notches in the base and the lid are properly aligned around the power cord, the lid will be able to fit on properly.
Lid and base fitted together, with water pump inside.
Step 5 – To assemble the flexible humidity dome, start by unfolding the humidity dome. Locate the two support brackets and packet of Velcro tabs for installation in the following steps.
Step 6 – Install the two support brackets inside the flexible humidity dome to prop it up and hold its shape.
In the inside corners of the humidity dome, there is a red line marked on the silver lining. After installing the support brackets, tuck the tips of the support brackets under the silver lining, where the red mark is.
To install the support brackets, lay them diagonally across the inside of the flexible humidity dome, then tuck the ends under the silver lining where the red lines are marked. Install the first support bracket, and push the ends into place. It may take some flexing to attach the second end of the support bracket under the silver lining.
Then attach the second support bracket in the same way, it might take some flexing to get it into place as the flexible humidity dome is stretched into shape under the tension of the support brackets.
The flexible humidity dome has cross-shaped air vent covers, allowing the vents to be closed to increase humidity, which is what is needed when placing cuttings in the unit for propagation, to minimise moisture loss, as they have no roots to regain lost water.
Once the cuttings grow roots, if the humidity in the flexible humidity dome is too high, the vents can be opened to increase airflow and reduce humidity.
The air vents pictured below are open.
Make sure the air vents are closed, as pictured below, when using the Seahawk Clone Station 24 Aeroponic Cloner with new cuttings.
Step 7 – To install the flexible humidity dome, start by gently fitting it onto the tub lid as a test fit, it won’t fit on perfectly, that’s quite normal.
A large gap will be visible as the flexible frame of the flexible humidity dome springs the sides away from the tub lid. The Velcro tabs must be installed to hold the sides of the humidity dome in place and close the gap.
Step 8 – To fit the Velcro tabs to the flexible humidity dome, sit it upside-down with the open end up.
The Velcro tabs are fitted inside the flexible humidity dome, and the point where the sides flex out.
Peel off a Velcro tab, and stick it on the inside of the flexible humidity dome, press it firmly so it sticks into place.
The Velcro tabs come in pairs, one side is soft and fuzzy, this is the ‘loop’ side. The other side with the ‘hooks’ is stiff and spiky. I’ve attached the fuzzy Velcro tabs to the inside of the flexible humidity dome, so I can use the stiffer ones on the tub lid.
Velcro tab installed on inside edge of the flexible humidity dome.
Attach the second Velcro tab to the other side of the flexible humidity dome.
Step 9 – To fit the other half of the Velcro tabs to tub lid, I’ve worked out an easier way to do it to get a perfect alignment.
Peel off the other half of the Velcro tabs, and fit the Velcro tabs to their counterparts on the inside of the flexible humidity dome, with the sticky adhesive side facing out, and the Velcro stuck together with hook and loop sides facing each other as normal.
Matched pair of Velcro tabs attached to inside of flexible humidity dome, with sticky adhesive side facing out.
Carefully fit the flexible humidity dome into place over the tub lid, making sure it’s sitting straight all the way around.
Once the flexible humidity dome is in place where we want it, press down on the Velcro tabs so the sticky adhesive side which is facing out sticks to the tub lid.
Pull apart the Velcro tabs, one will be attached to the tub lid, and the other to the exact same place on the inside of the flexible humidity dome.
With the flexible humidity dome removed, the Velcro tabs stays in place on the side of the flexible humidity dome.
Step 10 – The final step of assembly is very straightforward. Fit the neoprene disks into the tub lid. I’ve arranged the colours in lines as this allows for easy identification when matching a particular type of plant to a colour. With this arrangement, six kinds of plants can be propagated, with four of each type.
With the flexible humidity dome installed, assembly is complete!
How to Use an Aeroponic Cloner – Operating Instructions
The instructions supplied explain how to assemble the Seahawk Clone Station 24 Aeroponic Cloner, but there are no instruction on how to use it, which was rather disappointing, so I’ve written my own!
Here are the basics instructions for how to set up and use any aeroponic cloner. Regardless of the product used, the way to prepare plant cuttings is always the same.
1. Select Suitable Location
Set up aeroponic propagator where it will be located, near a power point to drive the pump, in a position where it will receive adequate natural light during the day. A bright window that receives morning and midday sun is ideal. Avoid the afternoon sun, as it’s too harsh and will overheat and dry out the delicate cuttings inside the propagator.
2. Fill With Water
Remove top, and fill with water so the water level it covers the pump, but sits below the bottom of the cross-shaped manifold with the red spray jets. The Seahawk Clone Station 24 Aeroponic Cloner will take around 6 litres of water to cover the pump.
3. Fit the Lid
Place the lid back onto the lower tray, ensuring that it is seated properly, and that the power cord is sitting in the cord channels on both the bottom tray and lid. Press the lid down gently so it sits level and there are no gaps between it and the water tray.
4. Prepare Cuttings
Step 1 – Take cutting 5-10cm (2-4”) long from the tips of plants that will be propagated.
Depending on the type of leaves the plant has, there is a slight difference in the preparation method, so both examples will be shown here.
Some plants, such as this rosemary herb, have very fine leaves.
Other plants, such as this aniseed myrtle, have larger leaves.
Step 2 – Cut the bottom of the cutting at an angle of 45-degrees below a leaf stem. The steep angle exposes a larger area for new roots to grow from. We cut below a leaf stem because this area contains actively growing cells which can develop more readily into roots.
Here is a close-up view of the angled cut at the base of the cutting.
Step 3 – Remove the leaves from the lower two-thirds of the cutting.
For plants with very fine leaves, hold the cutting by the tip, and them pinch the stem between the thumb and index finger, one-third of the way down from the tip, then pull down towards the base to strip the leaves off.
For plants with larger leaves, remove the lower two-thirds of the leaves by cutting off the leaves with a knife, scissors or secateurs.
If the cutting has a very soft green tip that is very delicate and prone to wilt, remove that also. Make sure that the cutting has at least two leaves!
If cuttings have very large leaves, they can be cut in half to reduce moisture loss through the leaves, and they also take up less space inside the propagator this way. Another advantage is that when new leaves emerge, indicating growth, they will be easy to identify because they will be whole leaves.
The base of the cuttings can also be dipped into rooting hormone to increase the chances of rooting, but this is optional.
When using rooting hormone, which is available as a powder, liquid or gel, don’t dip the cuttings straight into the container, as this can contaminate it. Pour a small amount of the rooting hormone into a bottle lid or other small receptacle, and dip the cuttings into that, and if there’s any left, dispose of it, don’t pour it back into the original container!
5. Insert Cuttings into Neoprene Disks
The neoprene disks are slotted, and open up to hold the stems of plant cuttings.
Pictured below is a neoprene disk with a rosemary plant cutting. The lower two-thirds of the leaves are removed from the cutting, so there are at least two nodes (buds, or points where the leaves were attached) below the neoprene disk.
This is the aniseed myrtle cutting, viewed from below, there should be at least two nodes (cut leaf stems) below the neoprene disk, here we have four.
6. Load Cuttings into Propagator
The neoprene disk are loaded with cuttings, ready for propagation. Large leaves are cut in half to minimise moisture loss.
7. Place Humidity Dome Over Cuttings
The flexible humidity dome is put into place, with the air vents closed to keep the humidity in.
8. Power on the Unit to Start the Pump
Switch on power, this will start the pump, which will begin spraying water inside the aeroponic cloning station. The sound of the water spraying will be easy to hear, indicating that the unit is working but it won’t be too loud.
9. Check Cuttings Weekly for Root Growth
Check the cuttings each week, to see if they have rooted. Make sure the pump is switched off before lifting out any of the neoprene disks to check for new roots, as the water will spray out! Also check the water level to ensure that it covers the pump, as the pump is designed to run submerged, and can overheat if it runs dry.
If the humidity dome develops too much condensation inside it, in the form of fogging or tiny water droplets, open the two vents enough to improve air circulation, and close them again to retain humidity when condensation clears away.
In warmer weather cuttings will grow faster, and some plants will naturally root faster than others.
It’s quite exciting when roots first emerge! Here is a cutting of the za’atar herbs with two small roots beginning to grow!
Plants roots really do love the warm water misting and high oxygen levels in the aeroponic propagator, this peppermint cutting has exploded with root growth!
Tips on Using Aeroponic Cloners
Here are a few useful tips to get the most from an aeroponic propagator. The following sections will cover the topics of lighting, optimum propagation temperatures, and cleaning.
Providing the Right Amount of Light for Aeroponic Propagation of Cuttings
Aeroponic propagators ideally should be located indoors, near a bright window that doesn’t receive hot afternoon sun, but not too close to the glass, at least 30cm (12”) away to prevent overheating.
They can also be used in a protected outdoor space which is under cover, such as a veranda, as long as the unit is not in harsh, direct sunlight. Gentle morning sun works well, but if the late morning and midday sun is too hot, a screen of 50% rated shade cloth, some distance from the propagator, may provide gentle dappled light for the cuttings.
The cuttings must have light to photosynthesise, and produce sugars for energy, which they can use to drive root growth.
It’s possible to run an aeroponic propagator in a space that has no natural light, such as a garage, by using grow lights, such as those used in hydroponics. In this case I’ve used a ViparSpectra VA600 Dimmable 600W LED Plant Grow Light which I reviewed earlier, to supply light to my cuttings.
Using a household power timer, I set it to a 12-hour on, 12-hour off cycle, so it switches the grow lights on at 6am and off again at 6pm. The grow lights are positioned around 25cm above the humidity dome, at approximately 60% brightness.
I’ve had the cuttings growing under this grow light for many weeks now, and they remain health and happy while they begin to grow roots!
What is the Optimum Temperature for Aeroponic Propagation?
When using an aeroponic cloning station to propagate plants from cuttings, the optimal temperature of the water for root development should remain between 21°C (70°F) and 29.5°C (85°F).
An easy way to monitor the water temperature in the water tray is with a digital aquarium thermometer, which has a probe attached to a long wire. The pump heats the water slightly because it runs continuously, and in cold weather that’s beneficial, but in warm weather it might get a bit too warm. Being able to monitor the temperature of the water is helpful when aiming for the ideal water temperature for rooting cuttings.
Pictured below is the aquarium thermometer I’m using with the aeroponic cloning station, it shows the water is only 16.2°C (51°F), which is a bit too cool, but I’m running these tests in the middle of winter and the air temperature is around 3°C cooler.
The best times of the year for rooting cuttings of evergreen plants in an aeroponic cloning station is during spring, or autumn, when the temperatures are mild but still warm. I’ve been testing this product in the middle of winter, in a temperate climate where the overnight air temperatures have averaged 5°C (41°F), and most of the cuttings have started rooting, they usually just take a lot longer in lower temperatures.
How Do You Clean an Aeroponic Cloning Station?
After each propagation cycle, once all the cuttings have rooted, it’s a good idea to wash an aeroponic propagator before putting in the next batch of cuttings. Warm water not only encourages root growth, it also also favours the growth of bacteria and fungi, so good plant hygiene is important.
A simple way to quickly clean the pump while the aeroponic propagator is still assembled is to remove the pump filter (pull of the side of the pump where the water intake vents are, it just unclips), rinse it under running water, replace it, then fill the tray with clean water, and run the unit for a few minutes.
Next, empty the water, rinse the tray and lid, as well as the neoprene disks and pump under running water, then leave them in the sun to dry.
I like to put the neoprene disks into a bucket of water with some dishwashing liquid, leaving them to soak for an hour, then rinsing them individually under a tap with warm water to remove all traces of the detergent. After that I place the in the sun to dry, as sun’s sterlising UV light does a bit more than just dry them.
Want to take it a step further? To sterilise an aeroponic propagator, empty the water, refill it with clean water, then add 2ml of 3% w/w hydrogen peroxide per litre of water, and run the pump for around 20 minutes. The Seahawk Clone Station 24 Aeroponic Cloner hold 6 litres of water, so in this case we would add 12ml of hydrogen peroxide, a bit less than three teaspoons, to sterilise it. Hydrogen peroxide is commonly available from supermarkets and pharmacies. Be sure to pour out the water with hydrogen peroxide and replace with clean water before new plant cuttings are put back in.
Retailers of some aeroponic propagators suggest using bleach for sterilising their products, but that’s a bad idea as bleach corrodes metals and rubber, is messy to use and difficult to rinse out.
Product Assessment – Seahawk Clone Station 24 Aeroponic Cloner
Does the Seahawk Clone Station 24 Aeroponic Cloner live up to its promise of rooting cuttings with a higher success rate than other propagation methods, and producing stronger root growth?
The short answer is yes. I began testing this propagator near the start of winter, a time when no gardener would ever dream of propagating evergreen softwood cuttings (cuttings with leaves, from plants which don’t drop their leaves). After a few weeks, many cuttings which root more easily produced strong roots, and even some of the more difficult ones began producing roots. Some cuttings are still going, they’re alive and healthy but without roots yet. This is during the time of year when it should not be possible to root cutting at all, especially considering that the propagator is sitting in a cold, unheated garage, with the water temperature in the propagator well below the optimum range. This is quite impressive performance!
As to the product itself, it’s made from decent quality materials. The lower tray is a sturdy polypropylene moulding, and the tight-fitting lid is made of ABS plastic of a good thickness. The pump runs quietly and reliably with no issues after 8 weeks of operation. The sound is reminiscent of an indoor water feature, with a gentle sound of water trickling.
The design ensures there are no water leaks, the power cord sits in a cord channel at the side of the lower tray, and there’s a similar cord channel in the lid, and both fit snugly to ensure that the water stay inside where it’s needed.
A minor point to note, when running the aeroponic propagator under grow lights, which have ultraviolet (UV) LEDs and therefore emit UV light, the orange and yellow neoprene disks faded in colour after 8 weeks of exposure to this light source. It’s not an issue of concern, as it’s only the pigment that has degraded, the neoprene disks were not affected in any observable way.
Assembly of the aeroponic propagator is quite straightforward, and takes less than 30 minutes when following the instruction sheet. The instructions are very good, the only part that required some thought was the assembly of the humidity dome.
That brings me to the only part I wasn’t thrilled with, and it’s the humidity dome construction.
First let me qualify the statement by saying that the humidity dome works fairly well, and is a decent implementation of the concept. The innovative folding design allows it to be packed flat with the rest of the unit when not in use. With the lid is placed upside-down in the lower tray, and the folded dome placed inside of it, the whole propagator when packed up sits less than 20cm (8”) high and can easily fit into a low shelf space.
The first, and fairly minor complaint about the humidity dome is that the support brackets sometimes become dislodged from the shallow lining corners of the dome, but it’s always only one of them, and its a rare occurrence that only happens when the dome is being removed from the lid in any way other than a gentle manner.
The second matter is that the sides of the humidity dome angle out at the sides, so they stand away from the sides of the lid. The yellow Velcro fastener is supposed to stick the sides of the humidity dome down to close the gaps on either side. But the sides of the dome spring out because the support frame is made of a springy steel, which springs back strongly enough to undo the Velcro fastener, as shown below.
Perhaps that’s why six Velcro fasteners are provided, though the instructions only show that two need to be installed, one on each side. Maybe three Velcro fasteners are required on each side to offset the springiness of the humidity dome frame which pulls the sides out strongly, and I should have tried that.
The dome is quite a tight push-fit onto the lid, that it’s hard to pull it down enough so the Velcro circles meet, even though they sit at the very edges of both the lid and dome, as pictured above.
I should point out here that the design really works quite fine, and the humidity dome is as good as any other similar product on the market or better, but it’s just my perfectionist side coming out here.
I can’t help but keep thinking that there is a better way to attach the humidity dome to the aeroponic cloning station. Rather than attach it directly to the lid, perhaps it would work better if another part was added – a plastic skirt made of ABS just like the lid, that fit perfectly onto the lid, being moulded to the same shape. The two support wires could be fitted to this instead, and the Velcro fasteners could be attached to a raised vertical lip on the ABS skirt. The humidity dome could then be unfolded, slipped over the skirt with its support wires, and fastened with the Velcro fasteners. This way, the humidity dome with ABS skirt could more easily be lifted on and off without having to release the Velcro fasteners (if they were holding), and it would be a better fit. I’ve drawn a diagram of how such a thing would work below.
I eventually decided not to bother with the gaps at the side of the humidity dome, as the aeroponic propagator seems to work perfectly well regardless, and it appears that enough humidity is retained in the dome to keep the cuttings happy.
The design of the Seahawk Clone Station 24 Aeroponic Cloner is excellent, and even though the design of the humidity dome is a little less than perfect, it’s still functional and fit-for-purpose.
What is most impressive with this device is its efficiency, it’s possible to propagate 24 cuttings in a tiny space of 30cm x 40cm (12’ x 16”), and in warmer weather the plant cuttings will all have roots in a month or less. If it’s possible to produce a batch of plants from cuttings every month, that’s 288 new plants! Even if the cuttings took two months to root, that’s still 144 plants in a year, which is still amazing. Considering that plants in 5-10cm (2-4”) pots sell for around $5, and plants in 15cm (6”) pots sell for around $10 each, this incredible device will pay for itself in no time.
For gardeners that have tried all the regular propagation methods, and want to take the next step, the Seahawk Clone Station 24 Aeroponic Cloner is a worthwhile investment and definitely comes recommended!
Deep Green rating for the “Seahawk Clone Station 24 Aeroponic Cloner” is 4 stars!
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